Park High School International Baccalaureate students went back to school early this summer -- spending two weeks in classes to introduce them to the rigorous collection of English, foreign language, social studies, mathematics and computer science they'll be taking in the fall.
"I look forward to more difficult classes," said Josh Brellentha, who will be one of the students participating in the program in its inaugural year. "I wasn't challenged in advanced placement and honors classes."
Park High School Principal Efe Agbamu began the process of becoming an IB site three years ago. It included re-writing curriculums and training teachers.
During the summer class, Aaron Pozzini, Park IB coordinator, gave about 30 students, who intend to complete the program, an overview on how class work will be graded.
IB chemistry teacher Tammy Valez gave students a sample class that included material that will be covered in her class.
If students complete the coursework, they can earn up to 30 college credits. In addition to passing exams, IB candidates must research and write a 4,000-word paper on a topic of interest.
Another part of the coursework is "theory of knowledge" classes, taught by Pozzini, on the process of critical thinking.
Student Andrea Kuzj hopes IB classes will be more challenging than classes she took last year, she said.
"I'm looking forward to being in class with people who want to learn," she said.
"It's not just academics," Madeline Burbank said, adding that unlike other programs, such as advanced placement, IB includes community service, the arts and sports.
Students get credit for sports participation, and coursework is required in film, visual arts or music.
Seth Holm, who will pursue a career in business management, said he's up to the challenge and wants a chance to show his "full potential."
Steven Cordes was attracted to IB because he can earn college credits without having to leave Park for post-secondary classes at the University of Minnesota, he said.
Pozzini plans to meet with families of middle school students during the upcoming school year to discuss how their students can prepare to become IB candidates.